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Missing Persons

Volume 503: debated on Thursday 14 January 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many cases of (a) UK national and (b) non-UK national missing persons of each age have been recorded by the Missing Persons Bureau in each year since 1997; and how many were subsequently found. (308757)

The information requested is given in the tables. 34,972 missing persons cases have been recorded by the Missing Persons Bureau between 1 January 1997 and 16 December 2009. Of these 17,641 are British, 14,365 are non-British. No nationality data are available for 2,966 cases. Note that these figures relate to incidents of missing rather than individuals; the same person can go missing several times.

30,540 (87 per cent.) of these cases have subsequently been marked as ‘closed' on the database (i.e. the missing person has returned or been located). Research suggests1 that 99 per cent. of missing persons are located within one year of going missing. Not all cancellations are received by the Bureau. As force compliance with the code increases the percentage of closed cases on HERMES will increase.

1 Tarling, R. and Burrows, J. (2004) ‘The nature and outcome of going missing: the challenge of developing effective risk assessment procedures', International Journal of Police Science and Management, Vol.6, No. 1, 16-26

Data relating to missing cases by nationality (UK, non-UK or unknown) and age are given in the tables placed in the House Library. ‘Closed' refers to the status of cases where the individual was subsequently found. Data relating to ‘age' are given at the date the person went missing. Ages have been grouped together and where there are small numbers of cases (under five) in individual cells exact figures have not been provided to protect identity and maintain confidentiality.

The HERMES database used for the recording of missing persons data is an operational database used for policing purposes. The data are normally only used for management information and are not subject to the detailed checks that apply to national statistics publications. The data are therefore provisional and may be subject to change.

A code of practice for the collection of missing persons data was introduced in April 2009. Although limited data have been collected as some police forces have implemented the code, it is unlikely that any meaningful and complete national picture of missing persons will be available until early summer 2010, when all police forces will become compliant with the code. Meanwhile the available figures can be regarded as indicative only.